As it often happens on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I find myself lounging for the first couple of hours of the day with my coffee and my laptop. I’m an early riser and because I’m usually up before the rest of humanity, I do something that allows me to be silent and still and that feeds my heart and mind. I read and enjoy the nectar produced by pouring hot water over carefully roasted beans and then blending that nectar with cream… but I digress.
The results of my reading usually find me inspired or challenged by a topic. Today, as I often do, I was reading a blog post at Relevant magazine. The post I’m referring to was about God’s hearing voice or waiting in what we feel is His silence (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/3-reasons-god-silent#h7EARcT5zmWlUuOV.99). It was an interesting read and for the most part, I agree and feel similarly, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.
At the bottom of the blog article, there is a place for reader comments. My writing today is in response to a question posed by a reader named “Jennifer” who asked “What if you kind of feel like you have never “heard” from God? Could someone explain what hearing from God means?”
I too have felt like this in the past. I wondered what it would feel like, look like or sound like if I were to hear from God. I didn’t have the first clue what hearing from God would resemble. Jennifer… I’m going to try to answer your question, because it’s a tough one and it may challenge us both. You’re going to have to be a little patient with me though… I’m going to share my experience and my take on how it might happen or at least, how it’s happened for me.
What I’ve come to learn about “hearing” from God is this. Hearing from God is like hearing from anyone else… we have to play an active role in our relationship with Him and we have to be willing to communicate. Communicating means listening as much as it does talking. It also means being a little sensitive or perceptive toward God just as we must when we get know friends and family in our life. We learn those little unspoken mannerisms particular to them.
When we listen, do we know what to listen for when it comes to hearing from God? Does it sound like a booming voice? Is it a quiet whisper? In my experience, I’ve sensed God’s leading or voice, but I’ve also actually “heard” audibly and directly from God. Before you say “Really?” and roll your eyes, please let me explain. When I heard God’s voice, it was something that was completely unexpected! It was in a location that I would have thought would be the last place on Earth that I would have experienced God actually speaking to me. That’s exactly what happened to me though.
I was standing in a restaurant/bar in one of the major casino properties in Vegas when I was given a verbal and direct account by God of what was about to occur in the next few minutes. I can’t share the details of what he said to me as this involves more than just me. What I can say though, is that it was an amazing and powerful experience in which God used me in someone else’s life… to show them love and acceptance. God told me “word for word” what was I was about to hear… I did not hear Him tell me how to respond. He simply told me, in great detail, what was about to occur. Now… I have to tell you, having this happen to me while enjoying a beer in a restaurant/bar in Vegas was not lost on me. I’m here to tell you that I was a little more than blown out of my socks. I just stood there, leaning against a shelf, holding my beer and listening to the Author of the Universe tell me what was going to happen next.
I didn’t know why at the time God chose to speak to me, but I just listened (for about 3 minutes). Call it 1 minute after God had shared with me what He wanted me to know, I was approached by this person and what happened thereafter had me holding my jaw from hitting the floor! What I heard was exactly what God had told me that I would hear. This person shared the same statements and the same questions God said they would… VERBATIM! Yup… my mind was blown, but as a result what God had revealed to me, I was also quite prepared and at peace. The other person however… was a little more than surprised that I had such clarity in our situation considering I’d only met them a couple of hours beforehand and we’d not spoken ten words to each other. I was however, able to be used by God in this person’s life for the next 4 hours. We talked and connected because I had been prepared for this conversation by what God shared with me and by His Holy Spirit. I was led by and open to what God was doing. Why did God choose me to share this experience with this person? I don’t honestly know! I suppose he’d been preparing me for some time in various ways before this event actually happened. What I do know, is that it happened and that I’m humbled and grateful to have been a part!
I heard God clearly and directly before this person came over to talk to me and share with me what they needed to. God’s voice was clear and distinct, but I couldn’t describe what it sounded like if you were to ask. As I mentioned, this person was a complete stranger to me before that day began. I’d only become acquainted with them a few hours before our experience together. What I heard just before our experience was God’s audible (to me) voice. What I heard and felt afterward was a peaceful guiding of my mind and heart through the rest of the conversation that followed. God used the experiences of my life and also my life with Him to witness to another. At first, God’s voice was audible and then, it became spiritual. It was easy to follow because I was open to it. God was in my heart and guided me every step of the way. I know that God loved this other person enough to bring us together to answer some questions that they’d been seeking and suffering in their life. He talked to us and through us both, but make no mistake… it all began with God actually speaking to me in an audible form! I heard His voice.
So, after my regurgitation… what am I saying about hearing God’s voice? God can speak to us in many ways, but rest assured that He does speak to us! He can speak audibly to us, though I can tell you that in my experience, it’s rare. What I just described was the only time in my life where I’d actually heard God talk to me directly in an audible form… at least, that I’m aware of. God can speak through scripture. He can speak through the life of another or through a direct human interaction. He can use a tree or an eagle. He can us the laughter or tears of a child. He is not limited in any way. We however are limited in our ability to hear Him because OUR perceptions, intelligence and doubt get in the way.
Something I’ve come to learn about God is that He’s very direct. He lets me know what He’s thinking, but it’s up to me to listen or see what He’s trying to tell me. I have to do my part. I have to remain aware and sensitive. That can happen through prayer sometimes, but mostly, for me it happens through living my life. God does speak to us and answer us, but WE have to get out of the way to hear it! There was a time in my life when God was giving me answers. In fact, He was probably shouting at me, but I wasn’t listening to him at all! That said, He never stopped trying to share with me what He wanted me to know. He never stopped pursuing me!
My point here is that God is not limited in the way that He communicates with us and that His communication with us is unique to us! It’s between Me and God as much as your communication is between YOU and God. It all starts with letting God into your heart and then spending time with him. You may feel a peace that you can’t explain. You may hear His voice directly. You may read a piece of scripture that speaks to you. You may hear an answer that comes from another person who may be a complete stranger or a trusted friend. You will know that it is God though. You will know it because it will be clear and undeniable truth. God is direct and purposeful and He wastes nothing!
My inspiration to write this post came because I read a question asked by someone I’ve never met or am likely to meet. It came because I saw something in the words that spoke to me. There was something about the question that prompted me to write this today. I don’t know if it will help or if it even answers Jennifer’s question, but I did sense that God wanted me to try. God spoke to me through the question of another because he needed me to know the answer to something that I’m going through right now. He also needed me to know that He’s there even though the answers I’m searching for right now seem elusive and hard to see. Now that I’m here, I see much of what I’ve been missing because I’ve been getting in the way.
There is a great DVD series by Bill Hybels called “Whispers”, which is an excellent resource that speaks to this very question that I would recommend anyone watch.
I am quite sure that there will be some people who will read this and think… “yeah… another God following nutbar!”. Honestly, if I read what you just did, I’d have my doubts too. It seems so far fetched and anyone with some patience and a keyboard could conjur up a story like this. If that’s what you think, that’s OK, you don’t have to believe a word I’ve shared. All I can do is to tell you is that this really happened to me. If you’re reading this and doubting what I’ve said, ask yourself this… “Tim will never meet me, he has no agenda in my life and he’ll likely never be aware of what happens to me… why did he take the time to write this?” I could offer you the answer here, but I’d rather you ask it by making a comment. Better still though… I hope you’ll try to answer it for yourself and maybe even ask God in the process. I promise you, God is listening and He would absolutely love to hear from you! He will answer, just be still and wait on Him… His answer may be subtle, but it will come.
I know this whole article sounds cryptic and weird, but that’s was my experience. God’s voice or method of communication is as varied as we are! Because of that, how He reveals Himself to us is personal and unique to us. I can tell you is that the best way to hear Him is to talk to Him and then, live your life. There is a lot of “noise” experienced while living life, but if you look or listen carefully, you’ll hear from God… You’ll know it’s Him because what you hear will be clear and identifiable truth. Absolute truth! You just need to be honest with yourself about what you hear! It may be very hard to hear, but trust that it will be exactly what you need to hear because God loves you and cares enough about you to tell you… and He’ll never stop! Ever!